Italy foreign ministry urges Italians to leave Ukraine

Italians advised to leave Ukraine and to avoid travelling there.

Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio on Saturday issued a statement urging "all Italian citizens present in Ukraine to return home by commercial means and to postpone all trips" to the country.

Di Maio made the announcement following a meeting of the foreign ministry’s crisis response unit dedicated to the situation in Ukraine, amid warnings from Western powers that an invasion by Russia could be imminent.

The minister said the advice was "precautionary" and added that his ministry has decided to "bring back all the non-essential staff from our embassy in Kyiv, which obviously remains fully operational."

"We are working to avoid an escalation of the Ukraine crisis", Di Maio stated, adding that in recent days he has had "talks with my European counterparts and the Russian foreign minister Lavrov."

"Italy fully recognises the territorial integrity of Ukraine and is committed in close collaboration with its NATO and EU allies in defining a firm position and - at the same time - in pursuing a diplomatic solution to the crisis by maintaining channels of dialogue with Moscow, in the hope that concrete signs of de-escalation will arrive", Di Maio concluded.

Russia has amassed an estimated 100,000 troops along Ukraine's border but denies any intent to invade, the BBC reports.

The invitation for Italians to leave Ukraine follows similar calls from the US, UK, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands and Australia in issuing warnings to their citizens still in the country.

Dutch airline KLM announced on Saturday that it has suspended all flights through Ukrainian airspace until further notice. 

There are about 2,000 Italians currently present in Ukraine, according to Italian state broadcaster RAI.

Italy's latest travel advice, published on the Viaggiare Sicuri website on Saturday, said that "in light of the current situation", Italians are invited to "temporarily leave" Ukraine with the "commercial means available", adding: "Travel in any capacity to the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and the Crimea is not recommended."

It also advises postponing "all non-essential trips" to Ukraine - given the "uncertain situation at the borders" - and to "keep constantly updated on the media and on this website."

Italians who are present in the country are asked to register on the website www.dovesiamonelmondo.it and download the "Unità di Crisi" APP.

Italy's embassy in Kyiv can be reached on the emergency number: +380 50 310 2111.